Reviewed by Ted Geoghegan
Starring Yukie Kawakura, Eri Otoguro, Takumi Saitô, and Eihi Shiina
Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura and Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Over the past few years Japan’s genre filmmaking scene has undergone a startling transformation, quickly changing its focus from the darkly supernatural (Ringu) and the stomach-churningly narcissistic (Guinea Pig) to more lighthearted subject matter, with equally – if not, more – violent images. The result is a mish-mash that seems to have culminated in Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl. Naoyuki (Stacy) Tomomatsu and Yoshihiro Nishimura, the man responsible for 2008’s high-octane action/splatterfest Tokyo Gore Police, return to their signature pressurized blood sprays with Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl – a markedly different but equally entertaining romp that provides nitro-fueled action, over-the-top humor, and piles of gore that look like they belong in an early Peter Jackson flick.
The plot is goofy, yet endearing, as sweet young vampire Monami (Slit-Mouthed Woman 2‘s Yukie Kawamura) falls for Mizushima (Takumi Saitô), “the only acceptable boy in school.” Unfortunately, Mizushima is already dating Keiko (Chanbara Beauty‘s Eri Otoguro), the borderline psychopathic daughter of the school’s wimpy vice principal. When the two girls duke it out over Mizushima’s affections, Keiko is left dead – but that’s when we discover that her father also fancies himself an amateur Dr. Frankenstein who, with the help of the school’s oversexed nurse, has been carving up kids for months in an attempt to discover the secret to eternal life. Now, orgasmic with delight to have his own daughter on the slab, the vice principal uses a new-found secret to reanimate Keiko – combining the strongest body parts of the school’s staff and students. All this leads to the titular battle, which explodes from the depths of the high school gymnasium to the top of Tokyo Tower. Combining a plethora of practical and CG effects, the organ-bursting final twenty minutes of this gem feel less like Tokyo Gore Police and more like the work of Tex Avery … Of course, it’s Tex Avery covered in blood, snorting six lines of blow, and slicing at your eyes with box cutters.
Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl wallows in this absurdity throughout, with tons of tasteless humor and a score comprised almost entirely of 60s go-go music. Ganguro girls (a subculture of Japanese schoolgirls who mimic African-American culture) are ruthlessly ridiculed – turning them into spear-chucking, Sambo-styled caricatures that pledge allegiance to Obama and refuse to drink coffee unless it’s completely black. There’s also a clique of championship wrist-cutters and a chain-smoking Chinese professor played by Ju-On/Grudge director Takashi Shimizu, who manages to shamelessly sneak in a few nods to his own popular film series. And while these moments initially seem unbelievably out of place, the supporting characters – or at least, certain parts of them – end up playing a very integral role in the blood-soaked finale.
Kawamura is positively adorable as the lovelorn vampire girl Monami, who goes so unnoticed in school that she literally disappears. Eri Otoguro runs the polar opposite as Keiko, chewing up the scenery with her trio of bitchy friends every chance she gets. By the time she bites it, you’re ready for her to stay dead… but when Franken-Keiko inevitably shows up, it gives us all the more reason to cheer Vampire Girl toward victory.
The remaining cast has fun with their roles, with virtually everyone but Audition‘s Eihi Shiina (as Monami’s undead mother) and the oh-so-dreamy Takumi Saitô delivering purposely over-the-top performances. In Shiina’s particularly stunning flashback sequence, we’re also privy to absolutely breathtaking fight choreography by action superstar Tak Sakaguchi of Versus and Battlefield Baseball fame. The misty forest battle begs for an entire film all to itself – and ultimately supersedes many of the film’s later fight scenes.
The pacing is slick, and at a comfortable 85 minutes, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl doesn’t pad its running time with any unnecessary side plots. While one wishes that the battle between bloodthirsty Monami and mecha-Keiko would have taken up more of the film, there is a rather sizable amount of buildup necessary to get us to the showdown. A few more fights by choreographer Takaguchi also would have been pleasant, but the beat-’em-up action throughout is uniformly solid, even when overshadowed by massive effects setpieces.
When it comes down to it, directors Nishimura and Tomomatsu have created a picture that has no preconceptions about what it is or what it’s supposed to deliver. Between the explosive arterial sprays and the hunchbacked school janitor named Igor, there’s a film with real heart – made by filmmakers who grew up worshiping the movies they are now a part of. Where else can you be treated to blossoming young love, genuine human emotion, and swords made of human blood?
With its forthcoming release in Japan, it won’t be long before Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl takes its place in the splatstick hall of fame, sitting in good company with Bad Taste, Frankenhooker, and many of this gorehound’s other not-so-guilty pleasures.
Freddy vs. Jason? Alien vs. Predator? Godzilla vs. King Kong?
…They’ve got nuthin’ on these girls.
4 out of 5
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